When Alberto Contador won his first Giro d’Italia in 2008, he had plenty of time to savour the moment, as his then-Astana team was deemed surplus to requirements by Tour de France organisers ASO due to its ethical record. This time around, the first leg of the Giro-Tour double complete, Contador had scarcely laid hands on the Trofeo Senza Fine on Milan’s Corso Sempione before thoughts turned to the white heat of July.
“The Tour de France starts now for me. Tonight I'll try as best as possible to rest,” Contador said afterwards – though precisely how much repose he can aspire to at a Tinkoff-Saxo hotel where the team owner has already dyed his hair pink and raised his middle fingers from the podium is anyone’s guess.
“Tomorrow I want to go to Spain, and I’ll spend three or four days there isolated completely before I start work again for the Tour.”
When the Giro route was unveiled in October, it seemed tailor-made for a man looking to peak in both Italy and France, and Contador himself even noted that the battle for pink would only begin in earnest with the stage 14 time trial. Ultimately, however, the Spaniard was forced to race earlier, harder and more often than he could ever have anticipated in a breathless Giro.
On the penultimate stage to Sestriere, Contador’s efforts finally seemed to exact a toll, as he fell back on the Colle delle Finestre and conceded more than two minutes of his overall lead to Fabio Aru (Astana). He later explained that he had suffered from dehydration and begun the stage below his usual weight. It was an ominous sign, perhaps, of how this Giro – the third fastest in history – has depleted his resources.
“It can be interpreted in any way, but today I celebrated on podium,” Contador said of his unexpected late travails, adding that he did not feel that he had made any particular errors in the Giro that he would look to avoid in July.
Contador acknowledged, however, that the exertions of the Giro will inevitably make themselves felt at the Tour. “Winning the Tour could be more complicated, because of the rivals and the efforts of the Giro d'Italia,” he said. “Psychologically you have to prepare for it. It’s complicated to prepare your head after a day like today, but you have to prepare for another race.”
The last time Contador attempted the Giro-Tour double was in 2011, though he would later be stripped of that Giro win when he was handed a retroactive ban for his positive test for clenbuterol at the previous year’s Tour. On that occasion, his sole race days between the Giro and the Tour came at the Spanish national championships. This time around, he is pencilled in to ride the Route du Sud (June 18-21), where he will line up alongside Tour rival Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
“In principle, if I don't make any changes, I’ll go to the Route du Sud,” Contador said. “I'll listen to my body to see how it reacts to rest.”